Category Archive: Times of Israel

Why this Christian Tory peer leads the fight in the UK against Holocaust denial

Ahead of the Conservative Party’s conference, newly appointed Baron Eric Pickles warns that Corbyn’s Labour leadership harms Britain — domestically and internationally

LONDON — The British Labour party has become “a hotbed of bigotry and racism,” the country’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues said in a recent interview with The Times of Israel.

Eric Pickles, who was appointed to the House of Lords this summer, also accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of encouraging “something rather base and horrid to come to the surface” in the party.

Pickles also says it was “utterly wrong” for Conservative members of the European parliament to oppose censuring the Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán in a September 12 vote. Orbán’s government has been accused of deploying “vivid anti-Semitism” in its campaign against the Jewish philanthropist George Soros.

As the Conservative party begins its annual conference in Birmingham this weekend, Pickles launches a scathing attack on Corbyn.

Referring to the allegations of anti-Semitism which have dogged Labour under Corbyn’s leadership, Pickles asks: “How can anybody live with themselves with this great damage that they have inflicted on good community relations in this country?”

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn waves to delegates after giving his keynote speech on the final day of the Labour party conference in Liverpool, north west England on September 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF)

Mocking Corbyn’s much-professed opposition to racism, Pickles labels him “maybe… the world’s most unlucky fighter of anti-Semitism.”

“He sees murals but doesn’t properly look at things. He signs up to things but didn’t properly read them. He’s in the room with people who advocate the murder of all Jews and didn’t entirely raise it,” Pickles says. “It’s happened too many times for him not to realize the damage he is doing and for him not to do something about it.”

“And because it’s [Corbyn], he’s encouraged something rather base and horrid to come to the surface. His supporters are chanting anti-Semitic slogans, monstering Jewish Labour MPs on the internet because they think they’re doing their master’s bidding,” says Pickles, who is a committed Christian.

Kalen Ockerman's mural 'The Enemy of Humanity' (photo credit: YouTube screen shot)

Kalen Ockerman’s mural ‘The Enemy of Humanity,’ which uses anti-Semitic imagery. (photo credit: YouTube screen shot)

“If you’d said to me five years ago that this was possible, that a mainstream political party would not be able to cope with members that are anti-Semitic, I would have laughed at you,” he adds. “But here we are now. The British Labour party of all places to be a hotbed of bigotry and racism. It’s beyond belief.”

Ticking off a list of former Labour prime ministers, Pickles argues: “I can’t imagine Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, [Tony] Blair or [Gordon] Brown condoning any of this.”

Pickles welcomes the news that the Metropolitan Police, London’s police force, is now investigating whether any Labour party members have committed hate crimes.

“People who are anti-Semitic, who make their fellow citizens worried, should face the full consequences of the law,” he says.

As a Cabinet minister, Pickles ran the Department for Communities and Local Government, which is partly responsible for social cohesion in the UK. Referring to polling which suggests that nearly 40 percent of British Jews would seriously consider emigrating if Corbyn becomes prime minister, he says he finds it “immensely depressing that some people could be made to feel that they no longer belong to their own country.”

“A Jewish person at the beginning of the 21st century should not feel worried about appearing in public in obvious Jewish [clothing], or to shop in Jewish shops and wonder if they’re going to be safe,” Pickles argues. “Or feel that their politicians don’t regard them as anything other than people who have been born, brought up in this country and are an essential part of this country that makes it tick.”

From left to right: Foreign Office Minister Lord Ahmad, Sir Eric Pickles, Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust, The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Ephraim Mirvis, Mark Regev, Ambassador of Israel to the UK, at a Holocaust commemoration on January 23, 2018. (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

After leaving the government in 2015, Pickles was chosen by Cameron as Britain’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues. This year, Theresa May appointed him to the House of Lords and asked him to also take on the role of co-chair of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation advisory board.

As an MP he served as chair of Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), and will now lead the group in the UK’s upper chamber of parliament (the group’s chair in the Commons is now the former Cabinet minister and Tory leadership contender Stephen Crabb).

Pickles’s relationship with the Jewish community is so close that when he was in the Cabinet, the Jewish Chronicle affectionately dubbed him “the Tories’ de facto minister for Jews.” At a reception marking his elevation to the House of Lords, congratulatory messages from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis were read out.

Vote against Orbán censure ‘utterly wrong’

Although fiercely critical of Labour, Pickles does not shy away from criticism of his own party.

He is dismayed by the decision of the Conservatives to defend Hungary’s controversial right-wing government in a key vote in the European parliament earlier this month.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said it was “very concerning” that the Tories had chosen to back Orbán’s government, which it accused of “whipping up prejudice” and deploying “vivid anti-Semitism.”

Member of European Parliament Judith Sargentini (C) votes on the situation in Hungary during a voting session at the European Parliament on September 12, 2018 in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AFP PHOTO / FREDERICK FLORIN)

“I got an explanation from a colleague who is a member of the European parliament which went to about six paragraphs explaining exactly why they had voted against the resolution on technical grounds,” says Pickles. “My view is very straightforward: if you require six paragraphs to explain why you’ve done something, then you’ve made a mistake.”

“To vote against seemed to me utterly wrong,” he adds.

Pickles also makes clear his unease at the failure of the British government to fully proscribe the terror group Hezbollah. At present, the UK only bans the military wing of the group, leaving its political wing free to operate in the country. Its position has allowed anti-Israel protesters to paradeHezbollah flags on the streets of London at the annual Al Quds Day march in June.

“I can’t get into the mindset as to why we don’t [ban Hezbollah]. We should do this. There’s no difference between the political wing and the military wing,” argues the former minister.

“Of course it should be proscribed and the government should do it without delay. I’ve always felt there was a strong political will to do this and I’m hopeful that we may see this happen this year,” he says.

An announcement may indeed come as early as early October when the pro-Israel Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, addresses the Conservative party conference.

Illustrative: A Hezbollah flag is waved during an Al-Quds rally in London (Steve Winston/via Jewish News)

Pickles has been a vocal critic of warming ties between Britain and Iran and sounded a note of caution when then-foreign secretary Philip Hammond visited Tehran in 2015 to reopen the UK Embassy in the Islamic Republic.

“I was very critical and I remain so. We need to understand that Iran is an exporter of terror, a fundraiser for terror and is a destabilizing influence in a very destabilizing region,” Pickles says.

Alongside other European states, Britain has been attempting to shore up the Iran nuclear deal following the Trump administration’s abandonment of it earlier this year.

“If the Iran deal is to be saved, it would seem to me to be sensible to get some assurances about that terror,” argues Pickles. “I was critical of the deal and don’t share the [UK] government’s enthusiasm for saving it.”

The ‘magic’ of Israel

Pickles first visited Israel in 1980 when he led a delegation of Young Conservatives.

“To tell you the truth,” he says, “I just kind of fell in love with the place. It was such an open society.”

Eric Pickles waters a tree in Israel with the Jewish National Fund. (Conservative Friends of Israel)

He has visited the country countless times since with groups and believes that on each trip, whether it be with “a young politician, a seasoned statesman, [or] a councilor,” there is a “magic moment” when somebody says, “This place is pretty normal, isn’t it?”

“And that’s exactly right. It’s a place that most people would feel at home,” says the straight-talking Yorkshireman, for whom normalcy and feeling at home are high accolades.

Growing up in the highly diverse city of Bradford in northern England, Pickles says different religions, communities and cultures have always interested him, and he cut his political teeth in the Tories’ youth wing opposing the far right and campaigning against racism.

He ascribes his close relationship with the Jewish community, though, to his support for Israel.

“My feelings towards Israel have meant that I’ve met a lot of Jewish people in this country. The two things are kind of related,” Pickles believes.

He worries that a Corbyn government would cause huge damage to the UK’s relationship with Israel, with consequences many Britons do not fully appreciate.

“People talk about our involvement in defense with Israel and Israel is a solid ally in a very unstable region,” Pickles argues. “But more important in my eyes is the damage that would be done to cooperation in the National Health Service where so many of the patents on our medicines comes from Israel. Our cooperation on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia [and] our cooperation in cardiothoracic work would all be put in jeopardy.”

He believes many in the UK don’t recognize “how integrated Britain and Israel are at the high end of technology.”

“Most people navigate using Israeli-sourced innovation technology,” he says.

A retail politician to his fingertips, Pickles says CFI’s job is “try and get [out] the reality of what Israel’s relationship with the UK truly is.” The group, he says, has thus “moved out from foreign affairs [and] defense and into health and into industry and making that case.”

Eric Pickles, Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues speaking at the Commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day event, January 23, 2018. (Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Pickles’ other priority is to help counter lack of knowledge in the UK about the Holocaust. As co-chair of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation advisory board, he is working alongside the former Labour Shadow Cabinet minister Ed Balls on overseeing the planned memorial and learning center that will be built next to the Houses of Parliament.

While the number of Britons who would deny the existence of the Holocaust is “a tiny, tiny minority,” Pickles believes, there is a more of a problem with people who “compare the Holocaust with what is happening in Israel right now with [the] Palestinians.” He deems this a “kind of casual” form of Holocaust denial, “trying to trivialize the actual numbers.”

He hopes the new learning center will provide an accessible “what happened” account of the Holocaust, but it will tell the story from a British perspective, promising that “it’s going to show things that we did right and things we did wrong.”

“It will include things like the Kindertransport, but it will also explain that the reason for the Kindertransport is that we wouldn’t let parents in,” Pickles says.

“It will talk about the liberation of Belsen but it will also talk about the blockade of [British Mandate] Palestine. It will talk about internment [of Jewish refugees] in the Isle of Man. It will talk about anti-Semitism and appeasement. It will talk about instances of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom during the Second World War,” he says.

Such an approach may make some uncomfortable, but Pickles argues that it is crucial for the UK to take a lead.

“At a time when there are parts of central Europe trying to rewrite their history, then it is massively important that we look at our history with unblinking eyes if we’re wanting them to do the same,” he says.

Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/why-this-christian-tory-peer-leads-the-fight-in-the-uk-against-holocaust-denial/

Pope to pay tribute to Holocaust victims in Vilna ghetto visit

On papal trip to Lithuania, Francis to also honor Catholics jailed for challenging the Soviet regime

Pope Francis waves at the faithful attending his weekly general audience at the Saint Peter's square, on September 19, 2018, in the Vatican. (AFP/Alberto Pizzoli)

Pope Francis waves at the faithful attending his weekly general audience at the Saint Peter’s square, on September 19, 2018, in the Vatican. (AFP/Alberto Pizzoli)

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AFP) — On Sunday, Pope Francis will pay tribute to Holocaust victims at the Vilna ghetto memorial.

Nazi Germany all but obliterated the once-vibrant Jewish community of the capital, known as the “Jerusalem of the North.”

“I believe his thoughts will also be with the Christians who saved Jews, including those who saved my family.”

Around 200,000 Lithuanian Jews died at the hands of the Nazis and local collaborators under the 1941-44 German occupation — nearly the entire Jewish population.

Today there are only around 3,000 Jews left in the EU and NATO member state of 2.9 million people.

Paying tribute to those who challenged the Soviet regime

Thirty-five years ago, Father Sigitas Tamkevicius was detained and repeatedly interrogated at a KGB prison for protesting Soviet religious discrimination.

The pope will also visit the Lithuanian Catholic priest’s cell in what is now a museum in central Vilnius to pay tribute to those who challenged the Soviet regime.

Lithuanian Catholic priest, Father Sigitas Tamkevicius, during an interview on September 18, 2018 in Vilnius, Lithuania. (AFP/Petras Malukas)

“When I was sitting in that cell deep underground, if someone had told me the pope would come here… that would have been incredible,” Tamkevicius, now 79, told AFP.

“The pope’s visit to this place and tribute to the sacrifice for freedom cannot be overestimated,” he added.

After Lithuania regained independence in the 1990s, Tamkevicius was appointed an archbishop.

Back in the 1980s however, he was accused of spreading anti-Soviet propaganda for having founded and edited the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania.

Founded in 1972, the underground periodical covered the repression of Catholics. In classic samizdat fashion, it was smuggled across to the West, where it was picked up by sources including Vatican Radio and Voice of America.

Arrested and imprisoned in 1983, Tamkevicius served time in Soviet labor camps, including a spell in Siberia, before his release.

“We thought that if we got more freedom for the church, it would also bring more freedom to Lithuania,” he said.

“Everybody knew that the church was fighting not only for its own rights but also for the nation’s rights.”

In this photo taken on September 7, 1993 Pope John Paul II walks past the Hill of Crosses, one of the most famous places of pilgrimage for Lithuanian Catholics, near the city of Siauliai in Lithuania. (AFP/Mladen Antonov)

Tamkevicius said he was heavily motivated by the then pope — later saint — John Paul II’s public solidarity with the “silent Church” in countries where faith was discouraged at the time.

Dissidents in Lithuania and fellow Baltic states Estonia and Latvia were also encouraged by the fact that the Vatican had refused to recognize the Soviet occupation of the trio.

The Soviets had handed Tamkevicius a 10-year jail sentence. In the end he was freed after six, in 1989, during the so-called perestroika reforms instituted by Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.

In this photo taken on September 9, 1993 Latvians in national costumes stand around Pope John Paul II as he blesses people after a mass in the town of Aglona, some 240 km from Riga. (AFP/Michel Gangne)

But many of those detained decades earlier never left the Vilnius prison alive. Carved into its stony walls are the names of dissidents killed there under Soviet rule.

Vilnius estimates that more than 50,000 Lithuanians died in camps, prisons, and during deportations between 1944 and 1953. Another 20,000 partisans and supporters were killed in anti-Soviet guerilla warfare.

Moral authority

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said church support for dissenting voices helped it preserve a strong moral position in the country.

“The church was one of our pillars of resistance, alongside our language, culture and songs,” she told AFP.

“We see the difficulties and challenges that the church faces in other countries but we are glad it preserved moral authority here.”

Prince William unveils statue for spy who saved Jews from Holocaust

MI6 agent Frank Foley used his cover job as a passport officer in Berlin to freely issue British visas to German Jews in the 1930s

Britain’s Prince William unveils a statue of Frank Foley, a British spy who helped save thousands of Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust, September 18, 2018 (YouTube screenshot)

Britain’s Prince William unveils a statue of Frank Foley, a British spy who helped save thousands of Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust, September 18, 2018 (YouTube screenshot)

Britain’s Prince William unveiled a statue of Frank Foley, a British spy who helped save thousands of Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust.

William, whose title is The Duke of Cambridge, revealed the statue last week in Stourbridge, in the West Midlands county of England.

Before the unveiling ceremony, Michael Mamelok, one of the survivors who managed to flee Berlin due to the efforts of Foley, a major from the MI6 foreign intelligence agency, told the prince his story as William sat among his family.

A statue of Frank Foley, a British spy who helped save thousands of Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust at its unveiling on September 18, 2018. (screen capture: YouTube)

Speaking to the Press Association about what the day meant to him, Mamelok said: “I’m here to honor this great man who saved my life. My daughter wouldn’t be here today — there have been 17 children directly descended from me which wouldn’t be here.”

British intelligence officer Frank Foley, who save an estimated 10,000 Jewish Germans from the Holocaust in the 1930s. (Public domain/Wikimedia)

Asked about the prince’s involvement in the ceremony, he said: “It’s an honor for him to come here and unveil Foley’s statue, and I’m delighted to be here to view that.”

The sculpture of Foley at Stourbridge’s Mary Stevens Park is appropriately low-key for a person that MI6 has said was so unassuming and quiet that many of the people he saved never knew what he had done for them. It features a bronze image of Foley sitting on a bench alongside a briefcase.

As director of the British passport office in Berlin during the 1930s, Foley freely handed out visas to Jews in Germany and sheltered several in his home.

Middle-aged, with round, owlish glasses framing a face topped by a balding head, Foley did not cut a particularly heroic figure in 1930s Berlin. Yet far from his public role as a gray paper-pusher, he served as the Berlin station chief for British intelligence until the outbreak of World War II.

Prague station’s conversion to Holocaust memorial underway

The run-down property’s transformation is expected to take about two years

View of Prague, Czech Republic, on March 5, 2016 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

PRAGUE — The conversion of an abandoned railway station in Prague into a memorial for the Jews who were put on trains there to Nazi concentration camps has been launched in the Czech capital.

Activists have spent five years working to create the Memorial of Silence, which is meant to preserve the historical memory of the tens of thousands of Jews who departed from Bubny station during World War II.

With financing approved by City Hall, the run-down property’s transformation is expected to take about two years.

Before the war, nearly 120,000 Jews lived in the country known as Czechoslovakia. More than 80,000 died in the Holocaust.

Obchod na korze – jubilejní koncert a promítání oscarového filmu k oslavě přestavby Bubenského nádraží na Památník ticha před chvilkou zkončil. Moc děkujeme všem, kteří jste přišli.

Posted by Památník ticha Nádraží Bubny on Friday, 7 September 2018

An outdoor screening of an Oscar-winning 1965 Czech film set during the era, “The Shop on Main Street,” with a live orchestra marked the memorial’s launch on Friday.

Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/prague-stations-conversion-to-holocaust-memorial-underway/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=2fc8911b4f-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_09_08_12_47&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-2fc8911b4f-55812549

A 1939 phone book could be key to unlocking Polish Holocaust restitution money

Holocaust survivors and their descendants can now prove ownership of properties seized during WWII, allowing them to open claims for compensation for the loss of their assets

Yoram Sztykgold examines the unpublished registry from 1939 that helped him locate his family’s assets at a military library in Warsaw, Sept. 4, 2018. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

Yoram Sztykgold examines the unpublished registry from 1939 that helped him locate his family’s assets at a military library in Warsaw, Sept. 4, 2018. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

JTA — In the small park behind the only synagogue in this city to have survived World War II, Yoram Sztykgold looks around with a perplexed expression.

An 82-year-old retired architect, Sztykgold immigrated to Israel after surviving the Holocaust in Poland. He tries in vain to recognize something from what used to be his childhood home.

Sztykgold’s unfamiliarity with the part of Grzybowska Street where he spent his earliest years is not due to any memory loss. Like most of Warsaw, his parents’ apartment building was completely bombed out during the war and leveled, along with the rest of the street. His former home is now a placid park that is a favorite hangout for mothers pushing baby carriages and pensioners his age.

The dramatic changes in Warsaw’s landscape have bedeviled efforts for decades to obtain restitution for privately owned properties like Sztykgold’s childhood home, making it difficult for survivors like him to identify assets that may have belonged to their families.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, from Jürgen Stroop Report to Heinrich Himmler, 1943 (photo credit: first published in Stanisław Piotrowski (1948), released by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Wikimedia Commons)

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, from Jürgen Stroop Report to Heinrich Himmler, 1943 (photo credit: first published in Stanisław Piotrowski (1948), released by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Wikimedia Commons)

But for many restitution claimants in the capital, identifying assets will become easier thanks to a recent breakthrough with an unlikely source: the establishment of a first-of-its-kind searchable database. Users need only type in the name of their family to obtain a complete overview of all the assets they may claim under a new restitution drive in Warsaw.

It’s a high-tech tool only made possible thanks to the recent discovery of an unpublished phone book from 1939.

The World Jewish Restitution Organization, or WJRO, set up the database in December 2016. It allowed a relative of Sztykgold to get the first definitive list of the assets the family had in Warsaw before the war, when they headed a real-estate empire.

The database allows users to check whether their family owned any of the 2,613 properties that the City of Warsaw said that year it would reopen for restitution claims.

Especially in Sztykgold’s case, the database had “a huge role,” he said, because the only adult from his family who survived the genocide was his mother, who “had only partial knowledge of what her family owned.”

“Bits and pieces, really,” Sztykgold told JTA on Monday during a restitution-related visit to his place of birth.

During the visit, Sztykgold also got a rare chance to examine the key that led to the groundbreaking database: a yellowing proofing copy of a phone book of sorts from 1939. It was never published because the directory was being prepared when the Germans invaded Poland.

Crucially, the phone book, or registry, contained information that allowed genealogist Logan Kleinwaks of Washington, DC, to find the names of the owners of thousands of assets, including approximately half of those 2,613 properties that Warsaw said it would reopen to claims.

Poland, where 3.3 million Jews lived before the Holocaust, is the only major country in Europe that has not passed national legislation for the restitution of property unjustly seized from private owners by the Nazis or nationalized by the communist regime, according to the WJRO. Instead of passing legislation, Polish authorities and courts handle restitution claims on a per-case basis.

This 1942 photo provided by the the public prosecutor’s office in Hamburg via the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, shows Heinrich Himmler, center left, shaking hands with new guard recruits at the Trawniki concentration camp in Nazi occupied Poland. (public prosecutor’s office in Hamburg via the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum via AP)

Dozens of such cases have been resolved in recent years. Several Polish property attorneys told JTA that there is no way of knowing how many of the claims are by Jews.

As it carries out its controversial new restitution drive announced in 2016, Warsaw periodically releases a few dozen addresses of properties from its list that had been claimed during communism but whose status has never been resolved. The city does not release owners’ names, although it presumably has at least some of them from stalled restitution claims filed for each of the 2,613 assets. Critics of this practice say it deprives claimants of crucial information necessary to gain compensation. Advocates say it is designed to minimize fraud.

Once a property is reopened for restitution, claimants have six months to file a second claim. It is an unreasonably short period of time, according to WJRO. But for people like Sztykgold, who don’t even know which addresses their families used to own, the entire 2016 process is irrelevant.

Or, at least, it used to be until Kleinwaks “matched addresses announced in 2016 with the names of the owners” who are indicated in the 1939 registry, he said.

Today, the copy is kept in the vaults of the Central Military Library, which in 2014 bought it for about $3,000 from a book collector at an auction. The library then scanned the book and published the scans online. Kleinwaks, who had heard about the auction and was eagerly awaiting access to the book’s content, then used software he developed to build an owners’ database from the phone book, matching it with the 2,613 addresses.

So far, the City of Warsaw has reopened only about 300 of the restitution claims from the list of 2,613, and not one of the claimants has received compensation. Kleinwaks said he does not know how many people are using his database to mount claims. He has reached out personally to more than a dozen families whose names he found, he said, and some of them have subsequently initiated restitution work.

None of the Sztykgold family’s assets — there are over a dozen of them – have been reopened for restitution. But the Sztykgold family is already doing the footwork — locating birth certificates, building a family tree, proving they are the only heirs and many other bureaucratic chores — so that when their assets are reopened, they would have a hope of making the six-month deadline.

Gideon Taylor, WJRO’s chair of operations, said it was “a very positive step” by Polish authorities to purchase and make available online the 1939 registry.

“But Poland has to now follow through and make that information actionable for heirs, instead of introducing procedure that make it more difficult to reclaim properties,” he said.

Unlike her husband, Liora Sztykgold, 77, can’t even use the WJRO database to find out whether her parents had any assets that are being reopened for restitution. An orphan who was left in the care of a Catholic convent, she knows neither her birth name nor her date of birth.

Sztykgold and wife Liora rest in a park that was built on the site of what used to be his childhood home in Warsaw, Sept. 5, 2018. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

“It’s not about money,” said Liora, who has two children with Yoram. “Of course, we’d like to leave more to the grandchildren. It’s about achieving a measure of justice.”

Poland has returned communally owned properties worth many millions of dollars to Jewish and Christian organizations, among others. But it has resisted calls to pass legislation on privately owned properties.

In Warsaw, attempts to achieve justice on restitution are complicated, messy and feature many non-Jewish claimants.

About half of the 2,613 assets on the list being reopened were probably owned by non-Jewish Poles, according to Kleinwaks.

But “there is a general unwillingness to touch the issue,” according to Konstanty Gebert, a Jewish journalist for the Gazeta Wyborcza daily. This is largely because of corruption scandals plaguing it, he said, but additionally, “Many Poles feel the entire nation suffered under Nazism and communism, and that it’s wrong for only a few to get restitution.”

Then there are cases like that of Krystyna Danko, a non-Jewish woman who risked her life to save Jews during the Holocaust. She was forced out of her home at the age of 100 after the building where she had been living for decades on the ground floor was returned in 2016 to restitution claimants from Paris. (The claimant, Emilia Radziun, who owns a supermarket in the French capital, has told the Polish media that she is not Jewish. She did not reply to JTA’s attempts to reach her.)

Wojciech Danko sits on the bed while his mother, Krystyna, 101, rests in their Warsaw apartment, Sept. 6, 2018. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

Now Danko lives in a public housing building on the sixth floor, where her wheelchair barely fits the rickety elevator. Her son, Wojciech, says that his mother, who is nearly 102, went blind during the weeks of the move from the stress involved.

“What happened to my mother wasn’t just, but I understand the Jewish perspective of seeking justice through restitution,” he said. “I think we need legislation and a compromise because the way this is going isn’t good for too many people.”
Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/a-1939-phone-book-could-be-key-to-unlocking-polish-holocaust-restitution-money/

Before the Holocaust, Ottoman Jews supported the Armenian genocide’s ‘architect’

Author Hans-Lukas Kieser says a desperate Zionist press praised the empire even during the slaughter of its minority population, a murder which Israel continues to gloss over today

Mehmed Talaat Pasha, left, with Ismail Enver Pasha and Turkish colonel Halil Sami Bey. (Courtesy University of Princeton Press)

Mehmed Talaat Pasha, left, with Ismail Enver Pasha and Turkish colonel Halil Sami Bey. (Courtesy University of Princeton Press)

This past June, a scheduled Knesset vote to recognize the World War I killings of Armenians as genocide was canceled due to a lack of government support.

Because of Israel’s complicated on-again, off-again diplomatic relationswith regional powerhouse Turkey, “it hasn’t been able to do what many Israelis have ethically wanted to do — publicly recognize the Armenian genocide in the Knesset,” Prof. Hans-Lukas Kieser tells The Times of Israel from his office at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

The political biography explores how Mehmed Talaat, more commonly known as Talaat Pasha, almost single-handedly masterminded the Armenian genocide.

Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) were rounded up on April 24, 1915, followed by the systematic extermination of 1.5 million people, primarily because of their Armenian ethnicity.

The ideologically motivated genocide took place under the supervision of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), led by three de facto leaders of the Ottoman Empire at the time: Ismail Enver, Ahmed Djemal, and Talaat. Collectively all three were known by their military titles as the “Three Pashas.”

Even though Turkey continues to officially deny the Armenian genocide, historians unanimously agree that it is a historical reality.

Mehmed Talaat Pasha, along with Ismail Enver Pasha and Ahmed Djemal Pasha, in 1912. (Courtesy University of Princeton Press)

Laying foundations for a Turkish state

Kieser’s book claims Talaat operated a new messianic form of nationalism that sought to “dilute” non-Muslim identities in his attempt at new nation building in Turkey in 1915. Talaat was the “mastermind of his genocidal universe,” Kieser claims.

The historian also says it was Talaat — rather than Kemal Ataturk — who laid the foundations for the modern Turkish nation state, which began in 1923.

“Of course the Turkish Republic [itself] came about under Kemal Ataturk,” Kieser says. “Talaat did not plan a republic — he was a son of the empire, after all. But he made a number of important steps so that Ataturk could then establish the Turkish nation state.”

Talaat led the Ottoman Empire into World War I “in jihad,” says the historian, transforming Asia Minor into a Turkish national home and creating a “Turkey for the Turks,” as per the slogan at the time.

Kieser’s book, over 400 pages long, makes for tough reading at points — especially as the historian recollects the systematic murder of Armenian Christians. He notes, for example, that the “removal of Armenians from Eastern Asia Minor mainly took place from May to September 1915, where women and children endured starvation, mass rape, and enslavement on their marches [towards death].”

Kieser says a great number of villages in northern Syria became an “arena of mass crimes” in 1915, where Armenian civilians — who were considered “fair prey” — “were raped, abducted, and murdered en masse without any protection, or punishment for the offenders.”

Prof. Hans-Lukas Kieser, author of ‘Talaat Pasha: Father of Modern Turkey, Architect of Genocide.’ (Courtesy)

In the eyes of his admirers, however, Talaat is still seen as a great statesman, skillful revolutionary, and far-sighted founding father of the modern Turkish state, Kieser points out.

This narrative is especially pertinent in Turkey today, as it increasingly takes a more authoritarian and Islamist approach to its political identity. This is particularly notable, Kieser stresses, when it comes to the fundamentalist ideology of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its authoritarian leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Talaat really is the elephant in the room [in Turkish politics] today,” Kieser says. “Erdoğan is the master of a party, so in that sense his [ideas] fall in line with Talaat — even if it’s not acknowledged very much in AKP circles in an explicit way.”

“But implicitly, Erdoğan and Talaat share a number of similarities where a democratic start eventually moves to a very authoritarian end,” he says.

Kieser says that like Talaat, Erdoğan is “far from a real democrat,” and shows a very “vague notion of what constitutionalism really means.”

Moreover, like the CUP leader, Erdoğan places all his efforts “on how to achieve and keep power.”

Turkey’s President, Tayyip Erdogan reviews an honor guard as he arrives at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, on July 7, 2018. (AFP Photo/Adem Altan)

Ripples of shame

Israel’s recent decision to continue to remain silent on the 103-year-old genocide has garnered its share of criticism from historians, academics, writers and human rights activists — many from within Israel itself.

Prof. Yehuda Bauer, a leading Israeli historian and an academic adviser to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, said in a June radio interview that the Israeli parliament’s failure to recognize the Armenian genocide was a “betrayal.”

Benjamin Abtan, the president of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) and the coordinator of the Elie Wiesel Network of Parliamentarians of Europe, in an article published in Haaretz in June claimed that Israel had “a particular responsibility in recognizing the Armenian genocide [to] ensure mass atrocities [were prevented] in the future.”

According to Kieser, recognizing the Armenian genocide holds a relevance for Israelis today beyond the usual discussion of Israel-Turkey relations. Jews, he says, historically played a key role in promoting propaganda from the Ottoman side as Armenians continued to be slaughtered.

The historian says that Talaat enjoyed “particularly good Jewish press” in Istanbul and abroad” during the period surrounding the genocide — notably in Germany, where newspapers like Deutsche Levante-Zeitung praised Talaat as “an outstanding leader” and the “savior of imperial Turkey.”

Although this glorification smacked of propaganda and lies, Kieser claims many Germans bought into the words of the Jewish press at the time and were affected by its corrosive logic.

A pro-Talaat Pasha article in the Zionist newsletter, the Deutsche Levante-Zeitung. (Courtesy University of Princeton Press)

Currying favor?

The historian recalls how many Jews loyal to the Ottomans largely looked the other way where the suffering of Armenians was concerned. This included figures such as Alfred Nossig, who helped found both the General Jewish Colonization Organization (AJK) and the Zionist Organization (ZO).

Both were set up for the purpose of Jewish lobbying across the Middle East and elsewhere, and subsequently encouraged intimate relations between Jews and Ottomans.

However, Kieser is keen to emphasize that some historical context is needed. This was a crucial turning point in Jewish history — before the Balfour Declaration was announced in 1917. Jews were looking for diplomatic favors — from a myriad of countries — wherever they could find them, in the hopes of securing Zionism’s ultimate end goal: a Jewish state in Palestine.

Consequently, a number of Jewish newspapers purposely tried to promote relations between Talaat and Jewish politicos and diplomats within the dying Ottoman Empire. They even grossly exaggerated these relations for propaganda purposes, Kieser says.

The German Jewish newspaper Die Welt — the mouthpiece of the Zionist Organization — for instance, wrote in 1913 of Talaat’s “friendly relations with many Jewish personalities.”

Mehmed Talaat Pasha, pre-1921. (Public domain)

Still, even for all of the positive Jewish press Talaat received during this period, his attitudes to Zionism were complex. On the one hand, Talaat did not want to be associated much with Jews and Zionism. But on the other, there were potential benefits in publicly courting Jewish political interests.

In 1913, an article published in the Istanbul-based L’Aurore, a Jewish newspaper financed by Zionists, praised the benefits of Jewish-Turkish relations, even hinting that an alliance between Pan-Judaism and Pan Islamism in Turkey could be a viable political option — something Kieser says Talaat was seduced by.

But the historian is keen to stress that Talaat in no way sympathized with Zionism, despite claims from both observers of the time and a number of historians since.

“We know from what he said and what he wrote that he was in no way sympathetic with Zionism. It’s also clear from the negotiations that he only needed the Jews to a certain extent in order to survive internationally. And he was successful in this regard,” he says.

“The Jewish Question” involved Jews jostling for political favors from the Ottomans, who still held considerable sway in the Middle East. But the power dynamics also worked the other way too, the historian explains.

“Talaat’s relationship with Jews during this time gave him considerable international leverage that he successfully used to deflect attention from Armenia,” Kieser says.

“In spring 1915 — which was a honeymoon for the Zionists in Istanbul — Talaat made sure there were no conflicting issues internationally because he wanted to strike the Armenians,” says Kieser. “Jews feared they would suffer the same fate as the Armenians, so they in no way welcomed any pro-Armenian or pro-victim activity [reporting] because they feared for themselves.”

Sara Aaronsohn, one of the founders of the pre-British Mandate Palestine espionage ring NILI. (Public domain)

Upstart Zionist youth take a stance

There were, however, some exceptions — notably, a group of young Zionists called Netzah Yisrael Lo Yeshaker (NILI), or, The Eternal One of Israel Will Not Lie, a pro-British espionage group in Palestine at the time.

NILI felt a strong sense of solidarity with the Armenian victims, even writing reports which they sent out to the international community in the hope of waking them up to the atrocities.

“The NILI group — which contained people like Aaaron Aronson and others — saw the Armenian genocide, and even wrote long reports about it,” Kieser says. “They saw that this total stigmatization and finally extermination was a process that could also happen with the Jews.”

“So they were deeply sympathetic not just emotionally, but also in a Biblical and prophetic approach,” he adds. “But they were a small minority.”

“Unfortunately, the silence carried on many decades after the war. So you had Jews in Israel and the Jews in Turkey who continued to help Turkey deny the Armenian genocide,” Kieser says.

Kieser makes a point in the book of comparing the Armenian genocide with the Holocaust, and finds some similarities.

‘Talaat Pasha: Father of Modern Turkey, Architect of Genocide,’ by Hans-Lukas Kieser. (Courtesy Princeton University Press) “Imperial cataclysm and a particular combination of circumstances in the first months of WWI made the Armenians an obvious target,” he writes.

 

He goes on to state, “Actors from the top and below, extremist ideas, entrenched prejudices, and material incentives colluded in the brute destruction [of the Armenians].”

A little more than two decades later, Europe’s Jews were to experience “an analogous situation,” he observes.

“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Hitler asked his generals in his infamous Obersalzberg speech on August 22, 1939 — just days before Germany’s invasion of Poland.

Talaat “certainly wasn’t Hitler,” says the historian, admitting that he is reluctant to make direct comparisons between both far-right demagogues.

Nevertheless, both leaders share a number of similarities, Kieser says — they represented societies, states and political parties that embraced radical domestic violence to overcome what they believed were crisis and defeat.

“Talaat was the mastermind of a single party regime,” Kieser concludes. “It was a single party rule that very strongly stigmatized one particular group.”

Putin grants authors partial access to secret Soviet archives on Hitler’s death

Investigative journalists Jean-Christophe Brisard and Lana Parshina dig deep into classified Russian materials that are still part of an ongoing Cold War-esque propaganda battle

Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun with their dogs, June 1942. (Bundesarchiv bild)

Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun with their dogs, June 1942. (Bundesarchiv bild)

On May 2, 1945, it was announced to the world that Adolf Hitler and his newlywed wife Eva Braun had committed suicide.

The bearer of the news — Nazi military commander of Berlin Gen. Helmuth Weidling — said that the couple had taken their lives in the Fuhrer’s underground bunker a few days earlier on April 30. According to survivors of the bunker, the bodies of both Hitler and Braun were burned to prevent them from ever being found.

“The Death of Hitler” is a book fundamentally rooted in both these questions.

Written by two investigative journalists and documentary filmmakers from France and Russia — Jean-Christophe Brisard and Lana Parshina — it explores how the cryptic case of Hitler’s burned corpse became a political football between East and West during the Cold War.

French investigative journalist Jean-Christophe Brisard, co-author of ‘The Death of Hitler.’ (Courtesy)

Of course, the mystery of Hitler’s death didn’t end along with the Cold War. It is a subject that still haunts geopolitics in Russia today.

“This story of Hitler’s death really shouldn’t be so sensitive at this moment of history because it’s now [over] 70 years old, but incredibly it still is,” Brisard tells The Times of Israel in a conference call with both authors.

On April 4, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree stipulating that the management, publication, and declassification of all State Archive documents fell directly under the powers of the president himself.

Russian investigative journalist Lana Parshina, co-author of ‘The Death of Hitler.’ (Courtesy)

Both authors believe that Putin overseeing access to the Russian State Archives at this time is no coincidence. They say the Russian president wants to convince the world that the decomposed head that the Russian State Archives currently holds in its possession belongs to Hitler.

Parshina and Brisard both claim that seven decades after Hitler’s death, the narrative has become an important propaganda tool, boosting Putin’s obsession with reconstructing old Stalinist myths into newfound nationalist sentiment in 21st century Russia.

“Putin is using this story so he can rewrite the past,” says Brisard. “Hitler’s death is political. And it was in the Putin Administration’s interest to allow us to dig in their archives.”

Although the pair received incredible access to the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation archives, Brisard says, “I’m almost certain that the [Russian government] is hiding something concerning files on the death of Hitler.”

“We would like to further our investigations,” Brisard says. “But it is very hard to deal with the Russians. It’s so complicated to understand their minds on this issue. But we definitely would like to end this case with the skull and the blueprint on Hitler’s teeth.”

Top secret teeth

‘The Death of Hitler,’ by Lana Parshina and Jean-Christophe Brisard. (Courtesy)

Constant secrecy surrounding Hitler’s death has been the dominant theme of this story. Immediately following Hitler’s death, conspiracy theories flourished as the Cold War intensified. Figuring out exactly how Hitler died became yet another Cold War showdown between East and West.

The Soviets always had the upper hand because they controlled the terrain where Hitler killed himself. Berlin remained under their control until the Potsdam conference on July 1945. Even after it was divided into four zones, the district around the Chancellery, where the Führerbunker was located, remained under Russian command.

In October 1945, the British intelligence services reported that Hitler killed himself by firing a pistol into his mouth. The Russians, meanwhile, claimed Hitler died by swallowing cyanide. This latter narrative fit neatly with the unquestioning postwar Stalinist consensus that Hitler ran from the might of his Communist enemies when he saw that military defeat was upon him.

There have been numerous theories debated at length by historians and conspiracy theorists over the last seven decades about how exactly Hitler committed suicide. One theory combines the British and Soviet intelligence and suggests Hitler took cyanide at the same time that he put the gun to his mouth.

Parshina doubts this theory. “Hitler was showing signs of Parkinson’s in his last days, so how could he possibly shoot himself with his right hand if it was shaking so much from Parkinson’s?” she asks.

“We wanted to use DNA analysis to close this chapter for good, and answer the question: Did Hitler take cyanide or did he shoot himself?” she says.

The so-called ‘Führerbunker’ in the garden of the Reich Chancellery, destroyed in World War II. (Bundesarchiv bild)

“We didn’t find any samples of [bullets] in the mouth,” Brisard adds. “We also know from the testimonies of the witnesses that Hitler had an impact in the temple. So it’s quite possible that he asked his valet, Heinz Linge, to shoot him after he took the cyanide.”

A skull fragment, but whose?

Parshina and Brisard begin their book in April 2016 in the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), where both authors were confronted with a fragment of a skull said to be that of Hitler.

There were numerous reasons for both investigators to disbelieve the legitimacy of this claim. In 2009 an American scientist asserted in a history documentary that the skull belonged not to Hitler but to a woman in her 40s.

In an attempt to answer remaining questions about Hitler’s skull with certainty, both Brisard and Parshina called in a globally renowned forensic scientist, Philippe Charlier, who was given unprecedented access to FSB archives.

Adolf Hitler’s teeth. (Russian State Archives)

The forensic scientist’s medical analysis confirmed the teeth contained within the Russian State Archives match the Nazi dictator’s dental records. Charlier could also confirm that the examination of Hitler’s teeth show no signs of material that would indicate a bullet entered his mouth before death.

Brisard explains the finer technical details. “It’s a historical result,” he says, “Because it’s the first time that a scientist took some [forensic] examples of Hitler’s teeth to analyze them.”

“Philippe Charlier was able to prove, with scientific analysis, that the teeth were not a replica created by the KGB [Soviet State Security],” Brisard says.

“He confirmed that these teeth are from someone from the same time period in which Hitler died, and that they are similar to dental X-rays of Hitler’s teeth that are currently held in archives in Berkeley, California,” he says.

But with the limited evidence that both journalists presently have, trying to identify with scientific exactitude the skull said to be Hitler’s is a step too far.

“We initially got authorizations to analyze this skull with Philippe Charlier,” says Brisard. “But then the officials at GARF decided eventually to oppose us to do so.”

A purported remnant of Adolf Hitler’s skull. (Russian State Archives)

“The people at the Russian State Archives explained to us that for many years this fragment of the skull was a state secret,” he says.

Hitler is definitely dead

Going on the scientific analysis that Charlier was able to come up with so far, both Brisard and Parshina can reach some conclusions — albeit not definitive ones.

Firstly, they can put to bed for good the notion that Hitler faked his own death.

The bullet theory, however, still remains debatable. To categorically prove it would require even more testing on Hitler’s teeth. Further tests on the skull, meanwhile, could potentially unlock a number of questions both authors have — something Moscow isn’t prepared to allow.

“For the skull, we cannot move forward on this matter,” says Brisard.

Both journalists believe the Russian government’s reticence to allow the story the full transparency it deserves is rooted in typical paranoid Soviet historiography.

On May 27, 1945, Joseph Stalin held an official report in his hand from SMERSH — a Soviet war time counterintelligence organization — confirming Hitler’s death was official.

But the Soviet dictator would continue to claim to the world — especially to his political counterparts in Washington at the Potsdam conference in July 1945 — that Hitler was still alive and well, hiding out in Argentina with other prominent Nazis.

A US soldier looks over Hitler’s bed in his underground shelter in Berlin. At right are the remains of his safe. Picture was taken in July 1945. Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945. (AP PHOTO)

Indeed, right up until his own death in 1953, Stalin never publicly admitted that Hitler was dead.

“It was a deep state secret,” says Brisard. “Stalin never talked about it. So this is the very first time we have proof of this huge historical lie.”

Brisard and Parshina’s book has all of the classic ingredients of a vintage Cold War spy novel: treachery, double crossing, bureaucratic confusion, and stark East-West divisions. The book brings numerous testimonies from the three Nazi officers who were the final witnesses before Hitler died: Heinz Linge, Otto Gunsche, and Hans Baur.

Even as late as 1956 all three were brought back from the Soviet Union, where they were imprisoned, to Berlin. There they were interrogated with psychological and physical torture. The sole aim was to get from the witnesses a narrative that matched how the Soviet Union envisioned Hitler’s suicide — a cowardly death by poison.

Parshina recalls how she read through all of the interrogation transcripts from the three remaining Nazi witnesses who were present during Hitler’s final hours at his Berlin bunker.

“In one report we read from one of the spies that shared a cell with Linge [that] Linge wanted to die because he could not take any more interrogation,” she says.

“[The interrogations] were usually at night or in the early hours of the morning, when they were sleep deprived,” Parishna says. “It was also incredible to read just how loyal these prisoners were to Hitler until the end, too. For example, Baur said to the other two witnesses, ‘Never say what really happened.’”

Operation Archive

Brisard and Parshina point out how the KGB secretly moved Hitler’s body a number of times over many years and incinerated it further. Several top classified documents are reproduced in their book detailing this. Remarkably, one comes from as late as 1970, under the name “Operation Archive.”

The destroyed ‘Fuhrerbunker’ in the garden of the World War II Reich Chancellery. (Bundesarchiv bild)

“Operation Archive tells the story of the elimination of whatever remains there were [in 1970] of Hitler’s body,” Parshina says. “The reasons for this were twofold. For starters, the Soviets kept moving their bases within Germany.”

“But there was also the fact that if the remains of Hitler within Germany became known, neo-Nazi groups might start a place of worship and use it as a temple,” Parshina continues. “Just like the way the Soviet Union has a temple in the Lenin Mausoleum in the center of Moscow.”

“At that time, the corpse of Hitler was an irritation for the Soviets because Stalin decided to lie to the rest of the world about Hitler’s death,” Brisard says. “So the Soviets had to keep the story a top state secret. Maybe the Soviets preferred to destroy the evidence of Hitler’s corpse to be sure that nobody would discover Stalin’s lie.”

Investigating the story of Hitler’s death may well be the book’s main premise — but analyzing the subtle leveraging of power by the Kremlin in controlling this narrative is a background leitmotif that runs parallel to the book’s central thread. Arguably, it’s just as important.

“Does this mean there are still some secrets regarding the fate of Hitler’s corpse?” Brisard asks as the interview reaches its conclusion.

“I’m quite sure there are,” he says. “Mainly because there are no pictures at all documenting either Hitler’s corpse or Eva Braun’s.”

Illustrative: Joseph Goebbels with his daughters, Hilde (center) and Helga, at a Christmas celebration in Berlin, 1937 (JTA/German Federal Archives)

Brisard points out how there are numerous pictures and videos available of Joseph Goebbels’s corpse. He committed suicide along with his wife Magda Goebbels; the couple took all six of their children to the grave with them by giving them poison at the Führerbunker on April 30.

The fact that there are pictures of Goebbels’s corpse, but none of Hitler’s, is rather strange, Brisard points out.

“I’m sure the [Russians] are hiding some state secrets inside the Lubyanka,” he says. “What exactly they are — well, we still don’t know the answer to that.”

Hundreds of neo-Nazis rally in Stockholm, met by counter-protests

Demonstration ahead of general election fizzles after a couple hours; no violence reported

Supporters of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement chant slogans during a demonstration at the Kungsholmstorg square in Stockholm, Sweden on August 25, 2018. (AFP/ TT News Agency / Fredrik Persson)

Supporters of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement chant slogans during a demonstration at the Kungsholmstorg square in Stockholm, Sweden on August 25, 2018. (AFP/ TT News Agency / Fredrik Persson)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Around 300 neo-Nazis demonstrated in central Stockholm on Saturday, drawing boos from counter-protesters and politicians.

Under the close watch of a detachment of police in riot gear, members the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM), an anti-European Union, anti-gay, and anti-immigration group, gathered in Kungsholmstorg square in the Swedish capital.

The movement had applied for permission to host a rally for some 3,000 members, far more than the several hundred the event drew, according to Swedish broadcaster SVT.

A six-hour rally was approved by Swedish police, who deployed a strong security presence around Stockholm’s Kungsholmstorg Square. But after just a few hours, the crowds wilted and a march was canceled.

At the edges of the square, hundreds of counter-demonstrators gathered behind a security cordon, shouting slogans and banging the metal barriers in a bid to drown out the NRM speeches.

Among the protesters was Swedish Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke, who was born to a Gambian father and a Swedish mother.

Both the rally and the counter-protests ended peacefully without incident, an AFP correspondent said.

The rally took place ahead of Sweden’s September 9 general election, in which immigration is a key issue.

Supporters of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement hold flags during a demonstration at the Kungsholmstorg square in Stockholm, Sweden on August 25, 2018. (AFP/ TT News Agency / Fredrik Persson)

Sweden, which boasts a long tradition of welcoming refugees and persecuted groups, is experiencing a creeping rise in neo-Nazi activities in public and on social media.

NRM, which was founded in 1997, is a political party which openly promotes a racist and anti-Semitic doctrine and has been described as the country’s most violent Nazi organization by Swedish anti-racism magazine Expo.

Although the group counts a core membership of barely 80 members, it was more active than ever before in 2017, the magazine said earlier this year.

NRM says it wants to usher in a national socialist government.

For the first time in its 21-year history, the NRM will present a list of 24 candidates to run in the elections, although the party is unlikely to pass the 4.0 percent threshold to enter parliament.

One of its candidates is facing a police investigation for raising a flag on April 20 in honor of Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

Writing on Facebook on Saturday, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he wanted to ban neo-Nazi organizations.

“Democracy has always had the right to protect itself from the forces willing to resort to violence to destroy it,” he said.

The neo-Nazi march was among dozens of events held across Stockholm on Saturday, including an animal rights’ march that drew 500 people.

Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/hundreds-of-neo-nazis-rally-in-stockholm-met-by-counter-protests/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=da99ae250c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_08_26_12_32&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-da99ae250c-55812549